In theory, one of the benefits of having several hundred elected officials serving in the U.S. Congress is the breadth of diverse backgrounds. Different kinds of people, with different professional skills and life experiences, can bring unique perspectives to the policymaking process.
Take Rep. Ronny Jackson, for example. Before arriving on Capitol Hill, the Texas Republican was a decorated veteran, a retired Navy rear admiral, and a presidential physician. Ideally, he'd have something valuable to contribute to the public discourse, especially on matters related to medicine and public service.
In practice, however, it's not quite working out that way. The HuffPost reported yesterday:
The former White House doctor who raved about Donald Trump's "excellent" health to a skeptical public is now claiming that the disturbing new COVID-19 variant omicron is nothing but a midterm election ploy by the Democrats. Dr. Ronny Jackson, now a Republican MAGA congressman from Texas, scoffed at the variant the World Health Organization has deemed "highly transmissible" and "concerning."
In a tweet published over the weekend, Jackson wrote, "Here comes the MEV - the Midterm Election Variant! They NEED a reason to push unsolicited nationwide mail-in ballots. Democrats will do anything to CHEAT during an election - but we're not going to let them!"
He did not appear to be kidding.
To be sure, there were some conservative media figures who also seemed eager to suggest there's some kind of weird political connection to the omicron variant, but Jackson used his position of authority to go further than most.
His deeply strange allegation leads to all kinds of questions. Does Jackson have any evidence to support his election conspiracy theories? If Democrats were going to somehow create a dangerous viral variant as part of a 2022 electoral scheme, wouldn't those rascally conspirators have picked a better time?
Perhaps most importantly, how exactly did Democrats manage to coordinate this amazing conspiracy with the World Health Organization and public health networks across the planet? Are nations around the globe shutting down flights and scrambling to prepare because they're focused on mail-in balloting in the United States 11 months from now?
As the world learned of the omicron variant, responsible figures considered the strain's transmissibility, severity, and strength relative to existing vaccines. The congressman from Texas' 13th district skipped these concerns and went straight to voter suppression.
The fear, of course, is that there will be some Americans who don't realize that Jackson's conspiracy theory is absurd. They'll see his background, consider him credible, and believe his bonkers ideas about elections and viral variants have merit.
They do not. What they instead do is perpetuate a problem that leads too many people to make dangerous choices related to public health and democracy.